‘Survivor: Philippines’ debate: About having female returnees…

One day before the premiere of “Survivor: Philippines” premieres, we have a debate … and it all stems from the question of people coming back into this game.

Thanks to some comments from Jeff Probst in an Entertainment Weekly article last week about returning players on “Survivor,” there has pretty much been the equivalent of an avalanche of criticism that has rained down on him. Why? When explaining why there have been so many more male returning players than female ones, he suggested that it really comes down to entertainment value:

“There just aren’t as many colorful women characters in Survivor history, and we’ve used up the ones we can—you know, Parvati and Amanda and Cirie. I mean, not saying that they can’t come back, we’d love to have someone like Cirie come back again, but we used them a lot; and for whatever reason, we’re loaded with interesting guys. Now, maybe that says something about our casting process, or maybe it just says something about how men and women behave differently in conflict. Maybe men are a little crazier, and lose their minds a little more, and thus become more interesting, and women are a little more rational, and thus probably better leaders; but for whatever reason, when we look at bringing women back, we are left with saying, if they have to carry the show themselves, are they strong enough?”

We are wondering if in some ways Jeff is alluding to the fact that “Survivor: One World” was the show’s lowest-rated finale ever, and the only other all-female finale in “Fans vs. Favorites” was also at the time that it aired. We are not here to question that, and we are not necessarily here to make the argument that Jeff is wrong in that there are a large amount of memorable guys, even though we can think of some great female players such as Danni Boatwright, Twila Tanner, Jenna Morasca, Kim Spradlin, Sophie Clarke, Sierra Reed, or Crystal Cox (steroid allegations and all) who are deserving of a chance to play the game again either as All-Stars (the second time in Jenna’s cast) or returnees. Granted, there are some great female characters (see Shambo) who have no interest in playing again, but they are such a small share of the pool.

Really, we are shouldering most of the blame on casting for allowing the men to dominate the airtime. How many seasons have generic beauty queens, actresses, and models who have ever watched the show in their lives? There are generally at least two every time, and this can make up at most a quarter of the cast to put someone on who you know will not win. There are some castings (see Purple Kelly or Sydney from “Tocantins”) that were completely made for superficial reasons, and they gave us no reason to watch. It should not be a requirement to have a young woman age 20-24 on the show to frolic around in a bikini. Only cast them if hey are like Parvati Shallow, Amanda Kimmel, or Brenda Lowe: people with a passion for the game. Plus, male villains on “Survivor” tend to be celebrated, while the women (save for Parvati) are typically insulted or attacked. There has to be a change in the culture to make things more interesting.

Do we want to see a season with 2-3 female returnees at some point? Definitely, but the show needs to do itself a favor and start looking more for interesting people rather than someone who fits a certain role.

If you want to find out more about some past players appearing on “The Talk” Wednesday all you have to do is check out the article here.

Photo: CBS

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